The latest general election polling and presidential approval ratings numbers haven’t held a lot of good news for Donald Trump. Some surveys have him back down in the thirties and the head-to-head matchups against the Democratic frontrunners don’t have him being able to beat anyone but Elizabeth Warren. (That doesn’t mean he couldn’t still win in the electoral college, but the popular vote would be a trainwreck if these forecasts proved true.) So what can the President do about it?
Over at National Review, Conrad Black has a suggestion. He points out that Trump has really come through on many of his campaign promises and delivered some results. And if the economy manages to avoid a recession for another fourteen months, there’s little reason that he couldn’t secure a second term. But what he needs to do in order to assure that, at least in Black’s opinion, is abandon some of his more incendiary tactics and start acting a little more presidential.
If the president can become a bit more presidential, his reelection will be all but assured.
This is the time for President Trump to deprive his enemies of the last weapon that could be employed against him that could cause him any harm: the largely false, but still troublesome, issue of his personality and routine behavior…
It does the president no favors to pretend that there are not still a significant number of people who have an uneasy feeling that although his administration is in policy terms quite successful, and the president has faithfully tried to carry out most of what he promised in the raucous 2016 election campaign, he is yet too bombastic and evidently egocentric to maintain the dignity of his great office. This is a widely held view, even among many who support the president for his policy successes and the well-conceived initiatives that are still in the balance, especially trade and other negotiations with China, and the attempted revival of nuclear non-proliferation in respect of Iran and North Korea.
The author goes on to point to people such as Peggy Noonan (a frequent Trump critic these days) who he believes would warm to the President and rally to his defense if he abandoned his “bellicosity toward his opponents, and his tendency to be nasty and personal towards them.” He also points to Donald Trump’s apparent need to respond to any perceived slight or insinuation, offering the “sharpie map” showing the recent hurricane threatening Alabama as an example.
While I find Conrad Black a solid thinker, allow me to completely disagree in this case. I’m assuming that the phrase “more presidential” means acting more like all the other presidents who preceded Trump in recent history. This, in my opinion, would be a disaster for Donald Trump.
You see, all of these perceived faults being pointed out – and I’ll admit that some of them put me off from time to time also – are precisely who he is. That’s the person America elected. They all saw him at his many rallies both before and after the election, pounding his fist on the lectern, pointing his finger, railing against his opponents even as he poured praise on his allies. He was a disruptive force in a political world many had grown skeptical of, filled with cookie-cutter politicians who spoke and acted the same, analyzing every word in every speech to the nth degree, just to ensure they didn’t offend anyone.
And now you want Donald Trump to turn into just another Washington politician?
Trump needs to keep (and if possible, grow) the support of the people who sent him to office. And all of the bombast and abrasive rhetoric is part and parcel of what they signed on for. They wanted a fighter, even if he fights dirty some of the time.
And here’s the other factor I believe Conrad is overlooking. In terms of nearly all of Trump’s critics who gnash their teeth over his “unpresidential behavior,” it wouldn’t matter one bit. Nothing will be forgiven if Trump suddenly undergoes a personality transplant overnight. He will still be the Bad Orange Man and they will find reasons to shout about everything he does. No amount of “better behavior” is going to change that.
For better or worse, Trump is being himself and that’s the man who was improbably elected in 2016. If a different, more milquetoast Trump shows up for the 2020 race, I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel on him.